Nine Homeschool Teaching Styles: Which One Are You?

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One of the great things about homeschooling is that there is no right or wrong way to teach your kids. Yes, some parents are better teachers than others, but just like any other profession, most improve with time and practice, . What’s not true however, is that you are going to ruin your kids’ lives by teaching them at home. You simply care too much to let that happen.

There are as many homeschool teaching styles as there homeschool teachers. That said, I have identified quite a few distinct styles and thought it might be fun to take a not too serious look at nine of them. Check these out and see if any of these teaching styles remind you of yourself or any of your homeschool friends?

The Hand Wringer

Most of us homeschool teachers were Hand Wringers at the beginning. From the moment we made the decision to homeschool our kids, to the moment we realized that we weren’t going to ruin their lives, we’ve had moments of serious doubt about our decision. Just like newborn baby alpacas (hearkening back to our trip to an alpaca farm this summer), hand wringers are at that wobbly, just learning how to stand stage of homeschooling. Hand Wringers often believe that they have made a terrible mistake and have ruined their kids lives. Fortunately, most Hand Wringers come to the realization that they will not ruin their kids lives. They will either put their kids back in school, or become one of the other homeschool teachers on this list.

We try to keep book work to a minimum.

The Teacher in a Box

Lots of homeschool teachers opt for a complete homeschool teaching program like Abeka (Christian) or Keystone (Secular). These programs provide the curriculum, schedule, and everything else that you need in order to homeschool your kids. This is a great way to get your homeschool started, especially if you are a Hand Wringer. Some parents use these programs for a year or two until they feel comfortable enough to gather or develop their own curriculum and schedule. Others find complete curriculum to be so satisfying, they stick with them through out their kids’ education. Either way, complete curriculum are a great way to get started. Sorry, lunches not included.

Learning programs are awesome……in moderation.


There are a lot of computer programs that teach reading, writing, math and pretty much everything else you would like your kids to learn. Kids are already used to watching videos and playing games, so these programs can be an effective teaching tools.

Most homeschool teachers have discovered the joys of setting their youngsters in front of a computer while they saunter off to the bathroom for a well deserved and uninterrupted break.

Roboteacher has taken this convenience to the next level and has figured out a way to teach every subject using TVs and computers. But I’m not exaxtly sure that’s a good thing.

As one who doesn’t love paper, pencils, and textbooks, I use these programs to supplement my instruction. In fact, I find that most Math instructional videos are able to effectively teach my kids without having a temper tantrum (me, not the kids). That’s why I advocate the use of electronic devices as instructional tools.

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that it’s easy to abuse this convenience. Just like most of you, there are times when I really need to be able to multi task, or take a break from being nose to nose with my kids. It’s important to remember that electronic devices are tools and not toys (something my kids will tell you they hear way too often). For the same reason that it’s not a good idea to use your TV as an electronic baby sitter, it’s an even worse idea to allow your electronics to become your kid’s primary instructor. Electronics are great teaching tools, but they are lousy teachers!

This is a far cry from the classroom that I experienced as a youngster. We had an Encyclopedia Britannica and a set of dictionaries. Now, she has all sorts of information at her finger tips.

The Re-Inventor

Re-Inventors are the complete opposite of the Teacher in a Box. I am probably more re-inventor than anything else, or at least I was until I realized how much time I was wasting. I’m the guy who never tried a cooking recipe that I didn’t modify in some way. The same goes for the way that I home school. If I see something that looks like a good idea, instead of incorporating it into my curriculum, I will generally synthesize my own version. I’m the type of hard head who will spend hours creating reading curriculum and making flash cards, when really good programs like Hooked on Phonics, created by PhD’s, already exist. Yes, I really did this!

The Buffet Sampler

I don’t know about you, but I love Chinese food. When we traveled to China to adopt our oldest. I gained nearly 10 lbs. on an 18 day trip (impressive, I know). Thanks to that trip, I have come to the realization that if you want good Chinese food you need to either go to China, or at least, drive over to Chinatown. Thank goodness for big cities like Houston.

Every once in a while however, I get the hankering for Chinese food, but don’t really want to take the 30 minute drive to Chinatown. That’s when I fall into the buffet trap! You know what I’m talking about, the place with the big sign that promises “all you can eat” of “over 50 dishes” Invariably, I pick through dozens of samples looking for just one dish that isn’t terrible. In the end, I am stuffed, yet at the same time quite dissatisfied.

Probably the most common homeschool teacher is the Buffet Sampler. The Buffet Sampler has tried dozens of curriculum, programs, textbooks, etc. They are on a never ending journey, looking for that perfect combination of lessons, programs, and curriculum. The Buffet Sampler has never met a program that they didn’t try, and at the same time hasn’t ever found one that they particularly like or don’t get bored with.

Just like my stomach, the buffet sampler’s shelves are stuffed with underwhelming and dissatisfying products. Don’t worry Buffet Sampler. Eventually you will find something that will work for you!

The Craft-Schooler

The best place to find the Craft-Schooler is on Instagram. Her classroom looks like it could be on the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine. Look around the walls of her classroom and you will see felt and Velcro calendars, clocks and math charts. Most of her assignments require scissors, glue, and paint (three words that make me shudder). The true revelation of the Craft-Schooler’s courage is the presence of a jar of glitter sitting on a shelf next to an open bottle of glue and a cup filled with soaking paint brushes.

Caft-Schoolers are great at turning any lesson into a work of art. I might see the Civil War Unit as an opportunity to watch a Ken Burns documentary, while you, Craft-Schooler, see an opportunity for your kids to build a 1/4 scale diorama of the battle of Bull Run out of marshmallows and cookie dough!

I tip my hat to you ma’am.

This is about the closest thing to crafts that we have done in our classroom.

The Unschooler

In case you aren’t familiar with the Unschooler, he or she eschews typical curriculum and scheduling in favor of learning through play and exploration. “Textbooks? We don’t need no stinking textbooks” says the Unschooler. When it comes to this courageous soul, paper and pens, computer programs, and most other typical educational tools are pushed aside. Though it may seem chaotic to some, there is a method to their madness (usually, though sometimes they are just mad).

Generally, Unschooling is used with younger kids, ten and under. Unschooled kids have the opportunity to take the lead in their education through exploration and play. The role of the Unschooling teacher is to provide their student with the opportunities, experiences, and materials to enable that to happen. The idea is that the student’s interests and aptitudes will be revealed through play and the Unschooler’s curriculum can be tailored towards meeting their educational goals.

The scary part for me as a person who both went to, and taught in, public schools, is seeing a nine year old who can’t read or count past 20. This is a realistic lag in traditional skills that you will often find in unschooled kids. In theory though, unschooled kids, once given an extended opportunity to learn about what interests them, will quickly make up for lost time. Eventually one of these unschooled kids will design the navigation for a future Solar Lander! Just don’t ask them where Nebraska is, because they probably won’t have a clue!

Nature offers endless opportunities to learn. What do you suppose caused this pattern?

The Old Pro

The old pro is the homeschool teacher, who has been there, done that, and seems to know exactly what she is doing. The truth is, the old pro started out as a Hand Wringer who once ordered a School in a Box in order to preserve her sanity. Eventually, she gained enough confidence to jump into the homeschooling buffet line. After a few seasons as a Craftschooler, a Re-inventor, and finally an Unschooler, She now claims to have finally figured it out.

The Worry Free Homeschooler

Worry Free Homeschooling is not actually a teaching style, nor is it a level of teaching expertise. Rather, it’s a mentality, a level of confidence that says “I can do this!” First year homeschool teachers and 10 year pros can both be Worry Free Homeschoolers, because Worry Free Homeschooling is all about your attitude and confidence, not your perceived ability. Worry Free Homeschoolers are not afraid to try new things, even if they seem unorthodox, like Unschooling. I have written an article about Worry Free Homeschooling and plan on updating it as I learn more about teaching my kids at home.

The most important characteristic of a Worry Free Homeschooler, is the confidence that you will not make a decision or mistake that is so egregious as to ruin your kid’s life. This just simply won’t happen.

Well, what about me?

What kind of homeschooler am I, you ask? Well, I’m a rehabilitated Re-inventor who relies a little too heavily on Roboteaching and Unschooling. Throw in a smattering of School in a Box and then surround it all with a good dose of Worry free Homeschooling and there you have me.

Brian Wood

Homeschooler, and father to six awesome kids!

When in doubt, read to them!

PS What About You?

Did you see yourself in any of the teaching styles above? Do you know about other homeschool teaching styles that I haven’t identified! If so, I would love to hear from you.

Join Our Homeschool Group

If you would like to learn more about the Worry Free Homeschooling philosophy, you can read this article (which really needs to be updated). You can also just jump into our Facebook group, Worry Free Homeschooling by clicking here. Note: The group is set to private so it may take up to a day for you to be able to participate in the discussions.

Whether you are an old pro or just beginning your first year as a homeschool teacher, you can always use a support system. I would love for you to consider joining the Worry Free Homeschooling Facebook group.

I also write a monthly newsletter called Timeout. In each issue, you will find links to every article that I have written during the previous month. I also include bonus materials, and freebies that you may find both entertaining and useful. Click the icon below to receive Timeout the newsletter.

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